All posts by Tobey Martinez

The Emotional Side of This Project

This project has become so much more than a thesis project. It is a part of my life, a gift to my dad, to my family. In all modesty I don't pretend that this is a work of art. It a Wordpress site filled with images, audio, and written stories that capture my family. To people who view it, it may be just that. For me it is so much more. It is a preservation of history and memory in the making. It captures the child my father was and the man he is. It is a tangible symbol of the bond he and I share. It is a tribute to my mother and my siblings. It is a reflection on family and childhood. It is happiness and it is sadness. I laughed out loud as I worked and I cried more times than I'd like to admit. I cried for my father and his advancing age. I cried thinking about how we have more years behind us than we do ahead of us. I cried for my mom. The ache of missing her that I feel inside of me every day was so strong as I wrote and found pictures of her and of us. I cried for the loss of carefree childhood days that can't be captured again and for the wedges that have developed between some of my siblings and myself. I cried because I long for my family...that's all I really ever want. I hope that this project means something to them. I hope it reminds them of who we are. I hope it gives them some happiness.

Creating the Parallel Pieces

As I begin to see my project take shape and feel my thesis journey slowly, but surely, starting to dwindle down, I begin to reflect. During my meetings with Dr. Zamora there have been some interesting points brought up through our conversation that I didn't really think about as I was creating. Now, as I sit, waiting for a video to upload to YouTube, I can ponder some of these thoughts. At the forefront is the creation of my parallel stories. Each pair of stories contains a memory from my dad's life taken from the interview sessions we conducted, and then a story from my own life that was triggered from his story. It was a joy and true pleasure to create all of these stories. They were personal and heart felt. However, actually writing these stories was interesting. As expected, when creating my own pieces, they simply flowed out of me. You see, much like my father, I've always had a very vivid memory. I can recall memories from random moments in my life as well as important ones. I can also relive through visualization. I often see the moment replay in my mind. Sometimes I even feel like I remember conversations and even clothing people wore. My sister tells me I'm crazy and that I can't possibly remember these things, but in my gut and heart, I know I am accurate. It's just like when I asked my dad how he knows he's accurate all these years later, he said he just does. The memories are his life. Therefore, I had a much easier time writing my own stories. As I wrote, I relived them. I could see the events happen before my eyes. It was like yesterday. But then came the hard part...creating my dad's stories. Sure I had his interviews which were very detailed, and some of these stories I even heard many times in my life. I knew them. But telling someone else's truth was hard for me. At stake was an honest portrayal of someone else's life. Was I getting everything accurate? Did I get the dialogue correct? What if my details were off or something seemed embellished? I worried about this. Listening to the interviews was not enough. I would play and replay, jotting furiously to capture everything he said. Phones calls with follow up interviews with my dad took place for clarification or to gather more details. I also felt that having a natural flow was harder. There were points in his stories that needed a lot more cleaning up then my own did. I think that was due to a combination of wanting to include every detail and wording things the way he would say them instead of altering details for my reader. Wanting to be direct to a fault got in the way of clarity. In the end, I feel the side by side stories compliment one another. I only hope that they read as equals.

A Small Set Back

Last Thursday I spent my time sitting in my quiet room at the library with my headphones listening to   the interviews with my dad. I felt like for the last two writings I needed more details and direction and just sitting and taking notes was great use of time.  However, there was a lot of material to sift through and I didn't get much actual writing completed. No worries, I have the weekend. Yeah, right. The weather combination this weekend was a disaster waiting to happen for my head. I suffer from migraines that are weather induced. My Dr. and I have worked very hard on getting a strong hold on them, but every once in awhile the humidity and barometric pressure come together and incapacitate me. I was done for all weekend long. Needless to say, I didn't get any work done. So here I am, Monday morning, in bed, recovering.  I took a sick day, as I knew there was no way my head could deal with seventh graders today! So I will see how much I can get done. Luckily, I have Wednesday off too. I would really like to have all of the writing work completed by my next meeting with Dr. Zamora and move on to the next phase, searching for ways to put it all together!

Moving Along

As of now I have three more formal writing drafts to create. I feel like when I finish drafting there will be a huge sigh of relief. Of course I'm nowhere near the "end in sight." Thinking about how to put it all together is up next, gathering photos and other mediums that I may need is on the horizon, and going back and revising all of my work will be last before I actually put it all together. There's a lot going on and September is over!

I spoke to a friend at work about some tech ideas. She just graduated NYU with her Master's in Digital Media Designs, and said she would love to sit with me after school and help out. I am very thankful to her. I have a vision in my head for what I would like the finished product to look like, but I haven't really searched around and explored yet. I need to. But I really just want to get my writings completed. One thing at a time.

I also told my dad that we need a date at his home (my childhood home) to go through some of his personal photos and memorabilia. He started whipping out pictures instantly. I also have my aunt in Florida on the case. She thinks she may have some old pics of my dad and uncle when they were little. Searching through all of my own family photos will be fun too. My dad gave me our box of pics and several photo albums to hold onto after my mom passed away. It'll be fun digging in.

It's stressful and cause of relief at the same time knowing that I have my list, have a game plan, and am moving along.

A Bit Sappy

So I'm sitting in the public library down the road from my school because if I stay in my classroom I'll grade papers and if I go home I'll play with my dogs. So here I am. I walk in like a B-list celebrity as a bunch of kids from school are here mostly pretending to do homework and can't seem to understand why one of their teachers is invading their space. The "quiet room" in the back is filled for a little while and I have to sit at a long bench between a math tutor and his student discussing fractions and a foul mouthed fifteen year old and her "cool" aunt holding some sort of counseling session. It is hard to concentrate. Finally, a spot opens up and I am able to go into the quiet room and work. I am much more productive. I finish my second set of parallel stories that needed a massive overhaul from the weekend and I get to blog.

I've been thinking a lot about the happiness this project is bringing me. Dr. Zamora asked me last week reflective questions and I really have been thinking.... This project has purpose for my family. My father, my best friend and buddy, is also the most stubborn man and a source of frustration in my life. At 85 years old I suppose he's earned the right to be. I wasn't really sure how he would embrace my work. Throughout grad school he has liked some things that I've written, one story in particular since it had to do with my mom, but I can honestly say that he is now excited and involved. He comes over each week for Sunday dinner. As I cook I sometimes work. He, of his own accord, has sat down, taken my computer and read my writings. I can't believe it. Two weeks in a row! I can't even express how much this gesture means to me. He has been a great provider when I have needed clarifying follow up information and continually supports whatever I need. I just wasn't expecting this. I figured he'd check it out when it was finished, and that would've been ok with me. I just hope it comes out the way I envision and that I make him proud.

As I Start Creating

I'm in the middle of writing my first piece right now and needed to take a break because I'm being very hard on myself. I am using this blog to refocus myself and remind myself that this is a work in progress and I am creating drafts at the moment. There will be time for revision and adjusting later. This does not need to be perfect and probably will never be perfect. It's not coming out exactly as I want, but that's ok for now. I need to start and get it going. I love revision and when the time comes I will strengthen all of my pieces.

I decided to keep a list of concerns or thoughts that are bothering me about each piece while I write or after I read it over, so I know my focus areas later. I also know that I need to get more specific information from my dad about a few of these tales of his. I should be happy to have a focus for now. OK- a walk outside to see my pups and then back at it.

What Will It Look Like?

I've been thinking about what my creative take on my dad's interviews will look like. His interviews became a looking glass into his life as a child growing in Newark during the Depression and WW II. The interviews were rich with stories of family, neighborhood, sibling bonding, and friendship. His life was very different than mine as a child, but I couldn't help thinking about common threads that came up. I mentioned one in my last block about being that neighborhood kid. I also could connect when he talked about the bond he felt with his brother. Growing up, I definitely had a similar bond with one of my brothers and my sister. I think that although my dad and his friends got into a lot more mischief than I did, they still had a lot of regular kid moments.

All of these thoughts lead me to what I would like to create for my writing project. I would like to capture many of my father's stories through my writing and then create a parallel story of my own that connects to his. It would be a kind of parallel memoir?? with first a written interpretation of one of my dad's moments, then I would create a piece about a memory of my own that came back to me when he shared. For example the topic could be a moment he felt really scared or how the movies played an important role in his life as a child. I know that both of our mini-memoirs need to be more than just a retelling, so I feel that more interview work needs to be completed to get to the heart of why these moments were important.

 I would like to show how the power of oral history can bring about familial connections and make family members reflect on their own lives in new ways.

Reflection on 1st Interviews- July 29, 2016

So here I am...after some let downs and feelings of defeat. A new plan is on the rise. What is most refreshing is that the "bones" of the original project are there. I am actually excited even though the original methodology has changed and reworking needed to be done. I think going forward, I need to remember my lowest moment and know that I made it through that moment. That may come in handy around the end of November when I am feeling crunch time. So after a helpful video conference with Dr. Zamora, I feel ready to start digging in.

The interviews: So I have had two sessions with my dad. It has been really fun, but also really hard! There is definitely a learning curve when learning how to interview well. I guess maybe I thought it would be easy because it's my dad, but now I'm thinking maybe that has made it harder. Since I know him so well, it is hard for me to think about how to pose my questions to him. Sometimes as I'm asking questions I think to myself, "am I leading him?" "did that sound ok/ was it clear?" It's important for me to keep the interviews authentic. I don't want them to ever feel as though I am guiding or leading them. So far, I think I'm doing a good job. The most important thing that I have realized is to just let him talk. My job is to listen.

What has been interesting for me is thinking about how my dad's childhood may have had an influence on me and my life. There are certain themes that keep coming up that I feel have carried over into my own childhood and even have had a trickle down effect into my adulthood. For example, he shares so much about the neighborhood and the apartment house he lived in and of the bond he felt to the kids that made up his "gang." If he grew up elsewhere, how would his friendships and loyalties have changed? The neighborhood that was their endless playground would never have been. The fact that he recalls, at eighty five years old, all of the mischief and moments that he got into as a kid tells me that this place and these friends were and are important to him. I too was a "neighborhood kid." My dad encouraged my siblings and me to play in the neighborhood with our friends. I didn't get into the same predicaments he did, but living in my neighborhood did have an impact on me.and the person I have become. Did he and my mom buy a home in a place that felt like it had the same qualities that they grew up in? It wasn't the city but it had a feel to it, similar to what my dad describes in his interviews. I grew up in a neighborhood filled with kids, corner stores, and parks. I could have stayed inside and played with Barbie dolls or Atari, but more times than not, I chose to be outside, a "neighborhood kid." Bike riding. Playing at the park. Kickball in the street. Exploring St. Georges Pharmacy. Climbing Trees. Would my dad have been happy if his kids did not follow in his footsteps as kids who embraced their neighborhood?

There are other threads that seem to be rising to the surface. We'll see how the next few interviews go!

Tobey's Thesis Thoughts 2016-03-13 00:21:00

I'm Still Here

Hey ya'll. So I know I've been a little quite on the blog.  Doing a lot of thesis work and managing a lot of stuff at work and managing some life stuff. 

I finished writing up a draft proposal today. It's been hard. I know it's nowhere where it needs to be and that sucks. Think a lot of frustration crept in while doing research and thinking about what my focus really is. I gave myself a break thinking of all the advice you guys and Dr. Zamora gave me when telling me that this is a long process, and it takes time to get where you feel right. 

That being said, I'm glad that I'm at least starting and that my wheels are spinning. I won't be able to join you guys Thursday on the video chat as I have parent teacher conferences that night. Much rather be hanging in cyber world with you guys. See ya soon. I'm sure you're all doing amazing work. 

Tobey's Thesis Thoughts 2016-02-21 19:02:00

Trying to Narrow Down
I spent about an hour exploring Rainbow School's website Friday. I figured it was a good place to start as I wanted to see if this "ignore the Core" curriculum that I have looming in my head already exists. If it does then, the idea is moot. I watched videos from their winter concert, saw clips of the kids gardening, got excited when the director talked about the fifteen minutes of centering they do in the morning through yoga or meditation to settle everyone in for the day of learning, and watched parents discuss the connection they felt they and their children had with the the teachers. Then, I clicked on the curriculum link, and further clicked on the writing link!!! And all my thoughts about this wonderfully hippie crunchy school became an"Oh no!" They teach isolated grammar instruction, the parts of speech, there is no evidence that their lessons tie into any out of the classroom experiences, in 6th grade  language arts instruction was 45 mins long while recess was 50 mins, October was designated to the paragraph, and they still taught book reports, the curriculum mapping from year to year was inconsistent at best. There was no real continuum. I was, let down. There was no pot of gold at the end of my rainbow :( 

The curriculum at my school is really good. I actually enjoy most of it. It is just that I do feel strangled by CC.  I wish there was more freedom. That is why when I see a school like Rainbow that has the freedom to do anything, and see that they revert back to old school methods, it drives me crazy. 

I envision multimedia usage and field trips that inspire the creation happening in my "Ignore the Core" curriculum. For example a poetry unit might include not only immersing the students through reading a variety of poems, but hearing poems being read( as I feel they are meant to be) through audio sites and videos, as well as a trip to a poetry slam, maybe in Harlem so they can see Langston Hughes' stomping grounds. We could also visit Rutger's Botanical Gardens in the springtime to appreciate nature as the English Romantics might have. They would bring their journals everywhere and write ideas, poems, free write.  The students' experiences and their ideas would come back to the classroom for formal poetry lessons and creation. To end the unit, we would hold a poetry slam or a night of readings for our community. 

It sounds great right?  


I love NPR's StoryCorps. It's been a long time since I listened. The first two I selected had me in tears. I like how simple, yet not so simple the stories are. Weighing in around three minutes, one must figure, "How much can I learn about a person in three minutes?" Well, the answer is A Lot! Subjects are interviewed by someone in their life. This allows for a personal and emotional feel. There is unabashed honesty that takes place. These podcasts are uplifting and addictive. With over 60,000 archived since 2003, a person could chose to sit and listen to the fascinating stories of average people all day long.

On their website there was a list of purposes to Story Corps. To paraphrase:

  • To show that everyone's story matters
  • Build connections between people and build a more just and compassionate world
  • Preserve and share humanity's stories
  • Teach the value of listening
  • Showcase the diversity of the participants
Do these podcast fall into the genre of memoir? 

The definition of memoir is: a collection of memories that an individual writes about both public or private that took place in the subject's life

A memoir must be told in the first person point of view

It is a subclass of autobiography, but where a memoir is an autobiographical writing an autobiography can never be a memoir

An autobiography captures a person's full life, a memoir captures a phase/ period/moment of a person's life

There seems to be many ways authors are creating memoir these days. Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart is about the loss of his young daughter. Hart creates his memoir in graphic form.  Michael Ian Black creates his memoir Navel Gazing through the use of vignettes. An example of another memoir with a twist in structure is David Seders' Me Talk Pretty One Day, which is filled with hilarious stories that don't necessarily "go together" to create a book of one long cohesive story. It is refreshing to see so many new takes on how author's are telling their stories. The lines of structure are open. However, there are still very strict rules in that the story must be the storyteller's own voice.

**Sidenote-I was thinking back to my creative non fiction class and dug up the names of those we studied during that class and are in the field. These individuals would probably be a guide towards the start of lit review work: Phillip Lopate, Lee Gutkind, and Brett Lott. 

The genre of memoir, has been one of my favorites to read for a very long time.  My bookcases are filled with them. Knowing that a story is true always makes it better for me. It's like when a movie starts and I see the words, Based on True Events, I'm pulled instantly in. 

I feel so excited to think about working with my dad and telling his stories. I love the idea of using podcasts to capture his voice. I have so many ideas/questions that are spinning around this type of project. Which stories do I pull from him? How will it be organized? How can I bring in not only voice but possibly visual? What will my writing look like/feel like? What will my interpretation of his stories look like through my own writing? What is my creative take on his stories? What is my creative voice going to sound like through my dad's? Am I capturing his stories through my writing or something else? Our relationship? My own memories of growing up with him?

How do he and I come together to create a new type of memoir?

Is it still memoir if an outside voice is being woven into the first person narration?

There is a lot to think about. Plus, I still haven't asked him if he is willing to do it. Lol! Although, I'm quite sure he will.